Monday, August 15, 2011

The Rake's Progress

"Stay, Madam, it appears I importune you overmuch . . . ," I continued, gently - by a sly leg insinuating myself from the parlor into the conservatory - yet bating that withal, not without some heat.

"Whist!" she cried. "Silence, Sir, lest my brother overhear your urgency and, like a very Catamount, spring 'ponst us both."

"Didst mean to say Mountebank, my Dearest?"

"'Tis one or t'other," she murmured, "indeed, it had a '-mount' in it."

"I am of like mind, Madam," said I, "I know the very word you intend," and proceeded to close negotiations. "Fie, Sir, you are but a naughty dog," she whispered from behind a pomegranate tree. 

"Nay," quoth I, gently seizing an interposing limb, "only so far as mutual inclination may warrant and as Madam may permit." She fled to an hibiscus. "These exertions overwarm me," she said.

"Not a bit of it, Madam," I assured her. "They are most salutary, and put a fine flush to your countenance."  She fingered a leaf. "Would that I had my breviary," she sighed.

"Piety is no refuge," quoth I. "Only count love as the best of pieties."

"Love, Sir!" she expostulated. "Would I had my pug by me."

"But a dog provides surety to his Mistress," said I, "only so far as his own interests extend. And in the present case, my interests extend much farther."

She fondled a pineapple, albeit, as I noted, distraitly. "Vexing creature," she murmured. "You - or I, Madam?" I ventured. "The dog," she answered.

"Most emphatically," I said.

* * * * * 

So it chances that Miguel and the maitresse of Chateau de Montaigne are marrying on the east lawn after a scant 13 years of romance, cohabitation and shared financial shenanigans. Wonder is that she should marry me at all, having never herself had any inclination to sample the blandishments of that institution, and knowing me as she does by now. I, on the other hand, have essayed it several times (the last nearly a quarter-century ago) - the first time stunned and nonplussed, the second time reckless of the clear and inevitable disaster awaiting, the last time with a reasonable optimism which, in the event, left me at least with a good friend. Probably as much as I could ever have bargained for, given the paucity of forethought with which I generally entered the lists. 

Hume (Treatise, Bk. III, sec. xii, "Of chastity and modesty") offers an admittedly partial account of marriage as a relation between the sexes based on the "trivial and anatomical observation" that "in order to induce the men to impose on themselves this restraint [of rearing and educating children], and undergo chearfully all the fatigues and expences to which it subjects them, they must believe that the children are their own and that their natural instinct is not directed to a wrong object . . . . 

(Wasn't counting)

"Now if we examine the structure of the human body, we shall find that this security is very difficult to be attain'd on our part; and that since, in the copulation of the sexes, the principle of generation goes from the man to the woman, an error may easily take place on the side of the former, tho' it be utterly impossible with regard to the latter." 

In short, a man can always claim that the kids aren't his, but a woman, never.

 (Wandered over from the neighbors.)

Admittedly only a partial account ("Were a philosopher to examine the matter a priori, he wou'd reason after the following manner.") But a posteriori, as there are plainly no children to enter into the calculation, and we're getting married anyway, the strict economic view fails to account for the palpable joy and excitement surrounding the event - the heartfelt wishes of friends and family, the sense of rectitude and satisfaction prevailing here at the chateau, the anticipation of - well, of more of the same, I suppose.Yep, I've been saving those red Ray-Bans for this day.

So the mail arrives daily, filled with notes of benediction, good wishes, and offers for discount hearing aid batteries (for which, as I've noted before, I have no use). No matter, I never thought I'd consider the prospect again. But what with the anticipation of our friends drinking our health on the lawn, having attained an age at which we can marry free-form, without ceremony, we can remain friends joined by the blessings of friends. The only thing I need to figure out now is where to throw 75 rented champagne glasses when there's no fireplace in the place.

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